Fact Sheet: University-Government Partnership


National Science and Technology Council

For Immediate Release
Contact: (202) 456-6020
September 26, 1996


Review of the University-Government Partnership


The partnership between government and universities aimed at advancing science and technology in the national interest has roots going back well over a century, when the land-grant universities were founded. In the last fifty years, that partnership has been transformed into the core element of our world-leading science and technology enterprise. Federal support of basic research is focused at universities, where the training of young scientists and engineers is advanced synergistically with the creation of new knowledge.

Investments in research and education are a centerpiece of this Administration's investment in America's future. These investments are increasingly important for our nation's prosperity, security, and quality of life in the knowledge-driven society of the twenty-first century. The Administration's investments in this area are significant with over $12 billion being invested in universities for research, as well as considerable support for education at these institutions.

The President recently received several letters from national, political, corporate and education leaders saying that the nation's universities are going through a period of stress. These letters included a letter from the President's Committee of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) that recommended a government-wide policy and administrative review of our university research system. It is clear that both the public and private sectors, including universities, have had to undergo difficult restructuring over the past few years. We have all had to look hard at why and how we do things. We have had to become more focused, more efficient, and prioritize our activities. To sustain our national level of innovation for the long term, it is appropriate to stop to examine the data on what stresses these universities may be faced with and whether the Federal government might be contributing to them.

Goals and Principles

Given these observations by diverse sectors of the science and technology community, the Assistant to the President for Science and Technology has decided to establish a multiagency task force under the auspices of the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC). This task force will be directed by the NSTC Committee on Fundamental Science (CFS). This review will: 1) examine data to determine what might be the major stresses in the areas of research, education, and administrative regulations; and, 2) determine what the Federal government's role should be in addressing any issues raised by this examination.

Implementing Actions

As part of the NSTC process, the task force should define the principal issues in the three areas cited below, prioritize the issues, and develop a detailed terms of reference in collaboration with the CFS. The task force will work with the agencies to assess their policies, programs and regulations related to the government-university partnership, education, and research administration.

  1. Research Partnerships. The agencies should provide their best current assessments about how budgets, programs, policies, and regulations may have impacted research partnerships among universities and the Federal government, including facilities not sited at universities but serving large university research communities.

  2. Education. Our principal resource for maintaining leadership in research and for capitalizing on its advances is our talent pool of well-trained scientists and engineers. They are the wellspring of new ideas and new solutions to challenging problems. Our universities have served the nation exceptionally well in this regard and must continue to do so. The agencies should review their support of undergraduate, graduate, and postdoctoral science and engineering education. Effectiveness in advancing the research and education linkages should also be considered.

  3. Administration and Regulation. The Administration is committed to streamlining administrative and regulatory procedures. Indeed, significant progress has been realized. The agencies should assess the results of streamlining with respect to the support and oversight of university research and identify opportunities for further progress. The review should include not only administration of research funding agreements but associated issues such as intellectual property rights, certification processes, and regulatory oversight. The goal is to minimize costs and paperwork while preserving the needed level of accountability in spending public funds.

Assessment Contexts

If these assessments generate recommendations to support higher priority budgets, programs, or policies, then each agency must include in their assessments a strategy on how these recommendations can be accommodated within and among the rest of the agency's research and development or education portfolio.

NSTC Integration and Schedule

The NSTC task force shall frame the agency assessment process so as to address the issues outlined above and then recommend the appropriate steps needed to integrate the findings across the government. Government and academia must jointly take responsibility for reshaping the partnership to meet the new challenges of the increasingly global technology-based society.

The evaluation should be completed by June 30, 1997. Any information that might be useful for the FY 1998 budget process should be provided to the Assistant to the President for Science and Technology as appropriate. Significant differences in views among agencies should be noted in the report.

External Advice

The NSTC may seek advice, in accordance with existing laws, from members of the President's Committee of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) and other appropriate representatives of industry, academia, the nonprofit private sector, and state government in preparing the report.


Agencies shall provide the NSTC with the resources needed to prepare guidance for the agency reviews and for the NSTC's report preparation.

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